I Am United Methodist: The Rev. Vetle Karlsen Eide
Sotra Metodistkirke, Bergen, Norway
"My call to ministry is simple," said the Rev. Vetle Karlsen Eide. "I believe my faith needs to be lived. To me, this life is best lived as an ordained deacon."
Ordained in May 2014, Eide is appointed to Sotra Metodistkirke (Sotra United Methodist Church) just outside Bergen, Norway's second biggest city. He works in the Bjorgvin Diocese of the Lutheran Church of Norway as an advisor on mission and diaconal ministry. His employment comes through "The Community of Grace," a joint agreement between The United Methodist Church of Norway and the Lutheran Church that mutually recognizes the orders of elders and deacons in the denominations.
"The mission part of the job concentrates on making contracts between the local congregation and seven Lutheran and ecumenical mission societies through the organization CCM (Cooperation for Congregations in Mission)," he explained.
"The diaconal part of my job concentrates on teaching, raising awareness on the ministry of deacons and making diaconal ministry a vital and important part of the local church," he said. "My job is to motivate the congregations – 188 total – to get more involved in mission and diaconal ministry. I do this through coaching, education and mission trips abroad."
In cooperation with both Norwegian Church Aid and CCM, he has coordinated four mission trips for deacons and other church workers – Ethiopia (2008), Thailand (2009), Turkey (2014) and Hong Kong/China (2016). In November, he will take part in a trip taking the mission advisors to Liberia to see how The Norwegian Mission Alliance works there. He also hopes this trip will make it possible to see how The United Methodist Church works there since United Methodists and the Mission Alliance cooperate in Norway.
From 2002 to 2004, Eide worked in the ministry of the Norwegian Seamen's Church in Miami, a religious organization serving Norwegian seamen abroad and Norwegians visiting the United States for study, employment or travel. The Seamen's Church also caters to Norwegian youth working at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
During the next eight years (2004-12), he was a youth deacon at a shopping mall on the island of Sotra, just outside Bergen. "The local government, the church and the shopping mall financed the project," Eide said. "I served at a place called Basecamp. It is a joint council between the government, the mall and the local Lutheran church."
Eide grew up in The United Methodist Church of Norway in congregations in Oslo and Arendal. He is a board member of the Norwegian Ecumenical Foundation against Violence and Sexual Abuse, the Haraldsplass Foundation and the Norwegian Association of Deacons. For several years, he been engaged in the national board of diaconal ministry and evangelization within The United Methodist Church of Norway.
Eide said he appreciates the relationship between social holiness and salvation in United Methodism. "The love of neighbor and the love of God [are] so closely connected and related. What I find most challenging about being a United Methodist is the theological assumption of the [Wesley] quadrilateral," Eide says. "Are any dogmas forever set? Will theology always change due to human condition? Why are things accepted today that were considered wrong years ago? What is human reflection and will on one side, and God's eternal and unchangeable will on the other side? Are there conflicts between these two positions or are they the same? This I find personally challenging."
He emphasized his hope that the church will remain active ecumenically. "I dream that The United Methodist Church in the future will be a relevant church that more people locally, nationwide and internationally consider theirs."
Barbara Dunlap-Berg retired in June 2016 from serving as general content editor and other positions at United Methodist Communications. She now lives in Carbondale, Illinois.